Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tamworth Castle, St Editha’s Church and Ladybridge


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 120 × 203 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 51 c

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, Tamworth Castle and St Editha’s Church to its north-east are seen north across the confluence of the Rivers Tame and Anker, with medieval Ladybridge on the left. The latter was repaired and widened in 1839,1 and is now pedestrianised. The castle has Saxon and Norman origins; its medieval structure, inside a high wall on an almost circular plan, was extensively remodelled in the Elizabethan and late Georgian periods. It was acquired by Tamworth Corporation (later the Borough Council) in 1897 and opened to the public soon afterwards.2 Some of Turner’s views have been overshadowed in recent years by six residential tower blocks to the west, while trees in the parks around the castle and south of the river obscure his sightlines.
As Finberg recognised,3 the present study forms the basis of a watercolour of about 1830 (private collection),4 engraved in 1832 as Tamworth Castle, Staffordshire for Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales. The composition was also informed by the slighter upper drawing on folio 53 recto opposite (D22073; CCXXXVIII 52), showing the bridge from the east and the building with a central tower beyond it which features at the far left of the finished design. The mill at the lower right does not survive. Ian Warrell has noted that ‘Turner took some liberties with the spatial relationships between the individual elements. This chiefly involved opening up the foreground by moving the bridge to the left, ... when in fact Turner seems to have actually been standing on it when he sketched the castle’.5 There are two related ‘colour beginnings’ (Times D25268, D25306; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 146, 184).
There are further sketches in and around Tamworth on folios 53 verso, 54 verso, 55 recto, 55 verso–56 recto, 56 verso 57 recto, and 57 verso–58 recto (D22074, D22076–D22082; Turner Bequest CCXXXVIII 52a, 53a, 54, 54a–55, 55a, 55b, 55c–56), and others in the contemporary Birmingham and Coventry sketchbook (Tate D22382, D22383, D22385, D22386; Turner Bequest CCXL 32a, 33, 34, 34a).
‘Welcome to Tamworth: Heritage Trail’, Tamworth Borough Council, accessed 9 January 2011,
See ‘History’, Tamworth Castle, accessed 27 June 2013,
Finberg 1909, I, p.731; see also Shanes 1979, p.156; Wilton 1979, p.399 under no.844; and Shanes 1990, p.217, 285 note 158.
Wilton 1979, p.399 no.844, reproduced.
Warrell 2007, p.124.

Matthew Imms
August 2013

Finberg 1909, II, p.731.

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